Paul Chouta, a web journalist, has been in pre-trial detention for almost a year in a defamation case.
During his visit to the Paris Agricultural Show on February 22, 2020, President Macron is arrested by a man on the fate of political activists imprisoned in Cameroon. Far from being repelled by law enforcement, people can even start a conversation. This is Calibri Calibro, one of the leaders of the “anti-sardinard brigade” (BAS).
Like the “Congolese fighters”, the “anti-sardinard brigade” boycott artists close to the power of Paul Biya. But it also works for the respect of fundamental freedoms in Cameroon.
Since the agricultural show, a long list of 2,533 Cameroonian political prisoners has been handed over to the services of the French presidency. They include English-speaking separatists, but also journalists, and activists from the party of opposition leader Maurice Kamto. The latter himself was detained for almost nine months in 2019, until President Paul Biya decided to stop the prosecution. A decision made after strong international pressure, and in particular from Emmanuel Macron.
– News Cameroon (@actucameroun) March 4, 2020
BAS activists want French President to intervene in particular to get out of prison a web journalist, Paul Chouta. He has been under provisional arrest warrant for almost a year at the Kondengui prison, in Yaoundé. Previously, Reporters Without Borders tried unsuccessfully to secure his release.
The incarceration seems indeed totally disproportionate to the case, a defamation complaint filed by Franco-Cameroonian writer Calixte Beyala. Paul Chouta is accused of having posted on his Facebook page a video of Calixte Beyala's altercation with a man presented as his lover. He admitted the facts, apologized for it and obtained the writer's forgiveness. But it was not enough.
Relatives of Paul Chouta speak of pretext. According to them, this is to silence the alert launcher. And to recall, as on February 11 in front of the Cameroonian embassy in Paris, that seven journalists are detained in Cameroon.
Like the “Congolese fighters” for the neighboring DRC, the “anti-sardinards” are members of the diaspora who claim to be resistant and patriots, opposed to the regime in place. His spokesperson, Salomène Tchaptchet, explains to TV5 World who they are: “Cameroonian diaspora fighters, anxious to defend the interests of the people, by carrying out noble and just battles, against all those who, directly or indirectly, support a tyranny that has lasted for thirty-six years in Cameroon . “
“Sardinard” comes from the nickname with which Paul Biya's supporters are decked out. Indeed, during his meetings, Paul Biya used to offer participants a sardine sandwich. The BAS movement also appeared during the Cameroonian presidential election in 2018. And since then, its members have campaigned for the respect of human rights in their country. Like the “Congolese fighters”, they also pressured to prevent Cameroonian artists deemed close to power from performing abroad.
As for Paul Chouta, all want his rapid release, thanks to the intervention of the French president.